9 Tips for Better App Demo Videos

Film CountdownWhether you are developing your own mobile app or building for a client, at some point you may want to create a demo video. A professional quality demo can be just as effective as downloading the app and lets you highlight the benefits and features that make your product unique. Here are some tips we learned from building the Klisto™ Mobile Database app demo that I think you may find useful.

1. Use the app simulator

Lighting is extremely difficult when it comes to recording your mobile device screen due to issues with shadows and reflections. Hand and finger placement can also cause problems. Unless you are an AV pro, it’s much easier to record the app simulator than a real device.

2. Use a screen recorder

I found Camtasia for Mac to be indispensable for getting the job done and reasonably priced. It has intuitive screen recording and audio/video editing tools. TechSmith provides excellent online tutorials; after reviewing these I was sold. The ability to zoom in and out of the screen is especially helpful for smartphone apps, as well as tablets, since this allows you to focus the viewer’s attention. Transitions help you create a smoother running demo. Audio tools are useful for silencing loud keyboard clicks. Camtasia is a powerful tool. If you are just getting started, check out the tutorials and keep it simple. Use only the features you need to make a professional demo.

3. Write a script and practice, practice, practice

A lean script will allow you to keep the flow of your demo moving and eliminate excessive pauses and wording as you narrate. It will also help limit your demo length. Here is a sample script. Be sure to include screenshots to make it easy to follow along. Run through your script multiple times before you start recording to identify missed or awkward steps. A red pen and hardcopy are recommended; you will probably have multiple detailed changes. Be sure to use a USB microphone or headset for better audio quality when you are ready to record. It may also take a few initial recorded takes before you feel ready.

4. Keep it short and get to the point

Limit your demo to no longer than 2.5 minutes, and try to put your most important messaging (your app’s purpose and differentiator) in the first 30 seconds. You want to entice the viewer to keep watching. Make sure the pace of your presentation keeps things moving. The longer your demo runs, the more viewers will drop off, resulting in wasted production effort. If you want to show the viewer more, create an overview video and save detailed workflows for another demo.

5. Record (and upload) in HD

This is highly recommended, even if your demo will not take up that much screen real estate on your site or blog. I struggled with pixelated screens in YouTube when I initially recorded in Standard Definition 640×480 and found that recording and uploading 1280×720 HD video resulted in higher quality and legible screenshots, even when YouTube displayed the downconverted SD version (once you upload, YouTube will convert your video to multiple versions with different resolution quality). If you are unsure, create a short test video of about 30 seconds and upload it. Just be sure to mark it private.

6. Edit, edit, edit

Play back your demo multiple times using your video editing tool and take notes. Your goal is to keep refining to tighten the flow. You will find things to cut such as a long pause while you were referencing the script, or a section of the demo that just doesn’t work. Issues like this will not be obvious with initial viewings but will be later to the point of being tortuous. Consider this an iterative process. Watch and take notes (include the timestamp), edit, repeat. If necessary you can record a new take for a segment and edit it in. This may sound like a tedious process, but you will be glad you did all this when you are viewing your demo for the hundredth time or showing it to colleagues. It will feel a lot more polished.

7. Upload, then test all your devices

I personally found YouTube to be the best option to host the demo. Another alternative is Vimeo, which requires a paid subscription for commercial use. Upload your video and be sure mark it as private. Test it on multiple devices and browsers before you go live. Test your site or blog with the embedded video.

8. Edit auto-generated captions

YouTube will automatically generate captions for accessibility. There will be multiple words that were translated incorrectly by voice recognition. Be sure to review and edit the captions using your script.

9. Use Video Analytics

YouTube provides some very useful analytics, including audience retention. Here is the latest report for our demo, which I’m happy to say shows good retention throughout. I chalk this up to the fact that I get to the point quickly, keep things moving, and keep the demo short.

AudienceRetention

I hope you find these tips helpful. Creating the Klisto app demo video was a pleasant and challenging experience, resulting in a useful tool for educating customers on our product.

Do you have any app demo tips you wish you knew before you got started? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.

The Klisto™ Mobile Database App for iPad®, iPhone® and iPod touch® is now available in the Apple AppStore. Organize your business and personal data. Sync your iOS devices with the cloud. Web access from your desktop browser.

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